'Yerusalem is waiting for us!'

I awoke at dawn to the rooster's cry. I opened the gate of the corral and the herd of cattle swarmed out for another day of grazing in the foothills next to our village.

By SHMUEL YILMA
August 23, 2007 12:30
2 minute read.

I awoke at dawn to the rooster's cry. I opened the gate of the corral and the herd of cattle swarmed out for another day of grazing in the foothills next to our village. Sounds of joy nearby interrupted the calm of the day, and suddenly I noticed my friend, Desta, skipping among the rocks in the direction of the big lake, which was frequented by masses of white, long-legged birds. We welcomed the visitors for a long time singing, "Shimela, shimela, agerachin Yerusalem dehena - Stork, stork, peace to Jerusalem." At sunset Desta gathered together his herd, and I mine; we parted from one another and each of us headed toward his own village. I climbed the path and when I reached the top, I looked back and shouted, "Desta, let's meet here tomorrow at dawn." The smell of incense and buna (coffee) welcomed those coming to our house that evening, relatives who came from far and near. I ran to my grandmother and asked her what was being celebrated. Grandmother gazed at me for a while and replied: "You'll see for yourself at dawn, and now you must go to sleep so that you will have enough energy for what tomorrow will bring." For a long while I lay there and wondered about the meaning of the gathering, until I fell into a deep sleep. Suddenly I felt the touch of my mother's hand, and she was calling me: "Get up, get up, my son - we must set out for a long journey!" I rose languidly. From out of the darkness I could make out many figures running around in our courtyard; some of them were loading equipment onto the donkeys and others were carrying children on their shoulders with their belongings in their hands. Father carried my little sister on his shoulders. With one hand he closed the gate to our home, and with the other he held my hand and pulled me out. We passed by the village mesgid (synagogue) in total silence. My father stood by the gate, murmuring something and then hurried back to his place at the head of the group. Later we passed by my aunt's home which was located at the edge of the village. I thought to ask her, as always, for warm dabo (traditional bread), but father ordered me not to stray from the path and to stay quiet, so that the dogs would not hear us and awake the neighbors with their barking. When dawn came, I remembered the herd of cattle left behind and asked: "Father, who is taking the herd to pasture now?" Father replied that we must make haste and find a hiding place for the day, before the farmers arrive at the fields, so that they do not notice us and we find ourselves in grave danger. As my thoughts wandered and I imagined myself, together with my herd, going to the usual meeting place with Desta as I had in the past, father looked to the east, raised both of his arms toward the sky and said, this time Yerusalem is closer than ever. Yerusalem is waiting for us!


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